Walcott's Light

 

On returning to this island home, there is much to be grateful for. As Walcott points out (see interview above), there is beauty and there is heritage. Embracing how backwards we are — the notion, the suggestion, is an odd but acceptable and welcomed weight lifted. Death to the avant garde and the conceit associated is a reminder of the fact that we live on a tropical island and resources are finite and beauty — enough. An artist should thrive here, isolation key. Instinct is beautiful and always interesting. The bar is raised.

 

The Light of the World, by Derek Walcott

Kaya now, got to have kaya now,
Got to have kaya now,
For the rain is falling.   

— Bob Marley


    Marley was rocking on the transport's stereo

    and the beauty was humming the choruses quietly.

    I could see where the lights on the planes of her cheek

    streaked and defined them; if this were a portrait

    you'd leave the highlights for last, these lights

    silkened her black skin; I'd have put in an earring,

    something simple, in good gold, for contrast, but she

    wore no jewelry. I imagined a powerful and sweet

    odour coming from her, as from a still panther,

    and the head was nothing else but heraldic.

    When she looked at me, then away from me politely

    because any staring at strangers is impolite,

    it was like a statue, like a black Delacroix's

    Liberty Leading the People, the gently bulging

    whites of her eyes, the carved ebony mouth,

    the heft of the torso solid, and a woman's,

    but gradually even that was going in the dusk,

    except the line of her profile, and the highlit cheek,

    and I thought, O Beauty, you are the light of the world . . .

 

I think there's a time...when you want to be as clear as possible. You want to reach out directly to the reader or to yourself. So your vocabulary becomes extremely simplified...not in an off moment, but in a sincere exchange between yourself and the reader.

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The light of the world is not necessarily religious, it's the kind of light you see at 4 to 5 o'clock in the afternoon in the tropics, especially slanted on walls and so on. Which is a suspended kind of experience. But it's magical, it's dantesque in a way. That everything at twilight in the tropics balances and trembles on its pivot.

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The presence of that landscape or seascape inside you, is superior to whatever language you speak. It is stronger than the language you speak. A mountain, a bay, a beach, a tree is stronger than anything you write, as a physical, beautiful thing. So that admiration is instinctual whether you can write English or not. A savage would have it and so on. What authenticates and gives it language is this: you have the power of the beauty of the landscape around you. That's there. You can't pull it down, you can't criticize it. And there's no aesthetics particularly attached to it. Because you have that, and because you are learning or practising as a craft. Practising a language within that landscape inside that landscape, it's bound to come out new, and different and interesting. Minimally interesting...       

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You can't separate the rhythm of Marley from the hills of Jamaica. They relate. They are powerfully related. And you don't need the Marley. Because the hills are there really.

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I'm very glad that we can be judged to be backward. Because we don't have an avant-garde. That's great. Death to the avant-garde...Because it's conceit, most of it. Big countries like France and so on can fool around and do nonsense...there's no trend that he has to join...that individuality is emphatically there, which makes the complexity rich.